A House panel passed a bill Monday that would allow certain Oklahoma employers to obtain alternative workers' compensation coverage.
House Bill 2155, by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, passed the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-5. It now goes to the full House.
Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said he would like to see how the workers' compensation legislation that was passed and signed into law last year fared before other measures dealing with the system were passed.
The workers' compensation legislation approved last year was the first comprehensive overhaul in 33 years
Rep. Fred Jordan, the committee chairman who handled the bill for Steele, said only employers that have at least 50 employees and dealt with more than $50,000 in claims the past three years would be eligible to obtain alternative workers' compensation coverage.
It would be voluntary, he said.
“There's still going to be a lot of employers who operate under the existing system,” said Jordan, R-Jenks.
Inman said he was concerned the change could drive up workers' compensation insurance rates for other companies.
However, Jordan said the rates should go down because the companies that would be eligible to leave the state's system have expensive claims.
When they leave the state system, it should result in lower rates for the companies remaining in the workers' compensation system.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said HB 2155 is a fairly complex bill and suggested lawmakers hold an interim legislative study on the proposal.
Jordan conceded more work might be needed on the bill, but that it shouldn't have to be delayed for a year.
“We're going to move through this thing very carefully and we're going to be cautious about everything we do,” Jordan said. “If it gets down to the end, we'll see where it goes.”